Michigan Womyn’s Music Festival thinks trans women aren’t real women, or something

Far be it for me to be an expert on what it is to be transgender, but how hard is it to understand that a trans woman is a woman, and she should be allowed to do, you know, woman-things like attending music festivals for women?

Apparently, real hard.

The Michigan Womyn’s Music Festival is finding itself yet again in hot water for expressing its “intention” that only “womyn born womyn” attend the annual shindig.

We’ve written before about “safe women’s spaces.”  A friend of mine who is lesbian was uninvited from a women’s dance in San Francisco because her long-time once-lesbian partner had transitioned and become a straight man. And straight men weren’t permitted at the women’s dance, so a couple that had attended the dance for years was no longer welcome. And it hurt.

That situation isn’t entirely the same as this, but it still gets to the same issue about when safe spaces end up becoming so safe they’re dangerous.

Here’s the latest statement from the festival:

michigan-womyn's-music-festivalWe have said that this space, for this week, is intended to be for womyn who were born female, raised as girls and who continue to identify as womyn. This is an intention for the spirit of our gathering, rather than the focus of the festival. It is not a policy, or a ban on anyone. We do not “restrict festival attendance to cisgendered womyn, prohibiting trans women” as was recently claimed in several Advocate articles. We do not and will not question anyone’s gender. Rather, we trust the greater queer community to respect this intention, leaving the onus on each individual to choose whether or how to respect it. Ours is a fundamental and respectful feminist statement about who this gathering is intended for, and if some cannot hear this without translating that into a “policy”, “ban” or a “prohibition”, this speaks to a deep-seated failure to think outside of structures of control that inform and guide the patriarchal world.

Trans womyn and transmen have always attended this gathering. Some attend wanting to change the intention, while others feel the intention includes them. Deciding how the festival’s intention applies to each person is not what we’re about. Defining the intention of the gathering for ourselves is vital. Being born female in this culture has meaning, it is an authentic experience, one that has actual lived consequences. These experiences provide important context to the fabric of our lives, context that is chronically missing from the conversation about the very few autonomous spaces created for females.

As a guy, I’d always figured that the last people on earth to have a problem with trans women would be women who spell “women” with a y.  And the whole “you can come, but we really don’t want you” thing is rather lame.

Then there’s this notion that “being born female in this culture has meaning, it is an authentic experience, one that has actual lived consequences.” Yes, I suppose that’s true. So, does that mean trans men are welcome at the festival?  They were after all “born female” (let’s not get derailed by the semantics of that one) and had the “authentic experience” growing up with all the prejucice and experiences that born-women face. So would a post-transition trans man be welcome?  Does anyone doubt that the Womyn’s festival would have no problem declaring a 300 pound, beer-bellied — and bearded — trans man a “real” man, and quickly showing him the door?

It’s also interesting, in this discussion of intolerance and self-definition, that the Womyn’s festival statement mentions the term “cisgendered.” It’s something created by activists, and intended to describe people who aren’t transgender. It’s now used by the Advocate and HRC, among others. In addition to the fact that it’s not a real word, and that its intended scientific derivation is scientifically inaccurate, many gay people find “cisgendered” offensive, in part because it’s often used when strongly criticizing people who aren’t trans, and in part because it bears an uncomfortable resemblance to the anti-gay slur “sissy.” The overall connotation, for many, is decidedly negative.

If we as a movement are going to fight for the right to self-define, and if trans people in particular are going to fight for their right to be called some words and not others (that end in y), then that same right applies to the vast majority who not only never chose to be called “cisgender,” but many of whom find the label extremely offensive.

Truly liberal movements respect everyone’s self-identity. It’s a message the Womyn’s festival, and the “cissy” adherents, should both take to heart.

Follow me on Twitter: @aravosis | @americablog | @americabloggay | Facebook | Instagram | Google+ | LinkedIn. John Aravosis is the Executive Editor of AMERICAblog, which he founded in 2004. He has a joint law degree (JD) and masters in Foreign Service from Georgetown; and has worked in the US Senate, World Bank, Children's Defense Fund, the United Nations Development Programme, and as a stringer for the Economist. He is a frequent TV pundit, having appeared on the O'Reilly Factor, Hardball, World News Tonight, Nightline, AM Joy & Reliable Sources, among others. John lives in Washington, DC. .

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  • Jade

    In a few years after “Fest” is fully integrated (and trust me, it *will* be)

    Yes, it will. And then it will go bankrupt.

  • wiwordmeister

    No, opening events like the Michigan Womyn’s Music Festival to all — males as well as transgendered women — will ultimately benefit the festival and all who attend it. In a few years after it’s fully integrated (and trust me, it *will* be), most of those involved will actually wonder how any sane person could ever have opposed integrating it. Those few bigots who won’t come around should not be deemed needed nor wanted there, and really should be shunned by all decent, thinking people.

  • wiwordmeister

    LilithLovesWomyn, MWMF must not only admit that transwomen are women; it must now openly apologize to them, make amends to them for years of exclusion, and admit and embrace them at Fest as fully equal participants. Same with males interested in attending.

    I’m very pro-choice and very much a feminist who speaks out on many issues affecting the women who attend MWMF — and women and girls everywhere — and I constantly write to my lawmakers, judges, and other public officials, area and national media, social media, and other people and platforms advocating for their and your rights. I also organize and educate others, women and men alike, to fight for those rights. Now what was that you were saying about my opinion being “irrelevant”?

    So listen to what I say about MWMF. I hope to see and have a great discussion with you there before much longer.

  • wiwordmeister

    Under Michigan antidiscrimination law, the Michigan Womyn’s Music Festival might well be a “place of public accommodation” subject to the following:


    Public accommodations or services; prohibited practices.
    Sec. 302.
    Except where permitted by law, a person shall not:

    (a) Deny an individual the full and equal enjoyment of the goods, services, facilities, privileges, advantages, or accommodations of a place of public accommodation or public service because of religion, race, color, national origin, age, sex, or marital status.
    (b) Print, circulate, post, mail, or otherwise cause to be published a statement, advertisement, notice, or sign which indicates that the full and equal enjoyment of the goods, services, facilities, privileges, advantages, or accommodations of a place of public accommodation or
    public service will be refused, withheld from, or denied an individual because of religion, race, color, national origin, age, sex, or marital status, or that an individual’s patronage of or presence at a place of public accommodation is objectionable, unwelcome, unacceptable, or undesirable because of religion, race, color, national origin, age, sex, or marital status.

    [See http://tinyurl.com/mc72ayk.%5D


    All it might take is one complaint to bring the festival’s entire rotten and hypocritical practices of excluding males — and perhaps of excluding transgendered women as well — crashing to the ground, as they should have been long ago. As a proud feminist activist and champion of
    equality for more than 35 years, I just might at long last file that complaint.

    As for the question of whether or not the festival is truly a “public accommodation” subject to Michigan antidiscrimination laws, here’s what eminism.org has to say:


    Isn’t the festival like a private party? If so, it should be left up to them to decide who to invite.

    First of all, it is not a private party. In addition to being a product of a for-profit corporation (which I assume means that expenses are deducted from taxable income), the festival is a “public accommodation.” The U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission defines public accommodation as “a private entity that owns, operates, leases, or leases to, a place of public accommodation” which includes “a wide range of entities, such as restaurants, hotels, theaters, doctors’ offices, pharmacies, retail stores, museums, libraries, parks, private schools, and day care centers.” The exceptions are “private clubs and religious organizations.” And no, the festival doesn’t qualify as a “private club” because it’s not membership-based. . . .

    Regardless, this debate is not about whether or not women’s festivals have the legal right to discriminate against transsexual people; it is about whether or not it is right and feminist to do so. Any argument for or against trans inclusion at women’s festivals should be based on our feminist principles rather than on some legal loophole created by Jesse Helms.

    [More at http://eminism.org/michigan/faq-debate.html.%5D


    Those who use the “private event” argument are using exactly the same “logic” that was used against civil rights laws banning racial and religious discrimination more than 50 years ago. Wrong then, wrong now.

    It is long past time that we use the same delightfully relentless legal logic and legal methods that are now ending bans on same-sex marriage throughout America to end the Michigan Womyn’s Music Festival’s bans (pardon me: “intentions”) on males as well as on transgendered women.

    Got that, Lisa Vogel et al.?

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  • Don Chandler

    Nice post, Becca. From what I understand, these sorts of groups don’t tend to care what men think. There are also men’s groups that are exclusionary but I don’t hear much about them and I’m not really interested in them as I feel more comfortable in a male/female setting (need I clarify, beyond the bedroom ;)

    I’d like to add something in support of your last statement: “But hey, it’s their festival, they can do whatever the hell they want.” We all know It’s just not a perfect world of men and women. There is a lot of violence and inequality between the sexes. So a Womyn’s festival becomes something of a safe place for women away from men–it might not be accurate to say it’s a radical separatist movement. I couldn’t say for sure having never been to one and not being very interested in such groups. But I’m sure of this much, there are probably many perspectives among those attending these kinds of groups. So again, In support of the group, there might still be room in this nasty world for an unambiguous safe space for woman. And nobody is going to solve all the world’s problems all at one time.

    One of the good things I experienced in recent days was going to a gay(men’s) bar that had the World Cup on it’s tv’s. The nearby sports bar was filled up so all these straight couples braved the gay bar. Everyone was very respectful to one another and there was no need to check one’s private parts at the door–welcome to the 21st century.

  • Butch1

    ” . . .many gay people find “cisgendered” offensive, in part because it’s often used when strongly criticizing people who aren’t trans, and in part because it bears an uncomfortable resemblance to the anti-gay slur “sissy.” The overall connotation, for many, is decidedly negative.”

    I think this is very true and to think that this womyn’s group has picked up this word as well is disappointing. It is also sad to think that a womyn’s gathering I thought was once a liberal movement, could turn out to be so backwardly bigoted when it comes to the equal rights of the LGBTQ community. They ended up as nothing more than a separatists group of old.

  • MJ

    Wif. Wer. Yikes…sounds so…..early medieval. Thanks for the info. Very interesting. (I suspect the development of the whole thing was different with my favorite languages, Italian and French, but that’s beside the point).

  • Bloix

    Since you asked, you’re wrong.
    The word “mann” in Anglo Saxon (“Old English” was originally not gendered. It meant person. The word for man was “wer,” a word that fell out of use in the 13th century (although it survives in “werewolf,” meaning man-wolf).
    The word for woman was wif.
    Around the 13th century (that is, after the Norman Conquest, when Old English was evolving into Middle English), “mann” stopped being used for all people and become the word for male people. It still was also used generically, creating the sexist usage we are stuck with today (“all men are created equal,” “one giant leap for all mankind,” etc.)
    At some point, well before the 13th century, people started to say “wifmann” (female person) for an adult woman. This word evolved into wimman, and then wumman, and then the modern woman. The spelling changes are well documented but there aren’t any good explanations for them.
    Wif became wife, meaning a married woman. It survives as meaning adult woman regardless of married status in compounds like midwife, fishwife, alewife.

  • Jade

    “When was the last time [you] weren’t offended when you heard that gays
    shouldn’t be allowed in the boy scouts because it is dangerous to the

    I have to say that in all these years … maybe I’ve not been listening closely enough … but in all these years of listening to both sides, this sentence/point/question gave me more pause than any other argument I’ve heard, either for or against. I’m trying to think of a reason why that analogy isn’t applicable (because, let’s be honest, I’m biased toward the festival), but I simply can’t. That statement hit me in the face with a brick.

  • Jade

    I don’t use it, but I don’t mock it either (though I can appreciate a sense of humor about it).

    I’ve looked it up, but I’m never really clear on the etymology of the word “woman.” It has ties to both Old English and a Norman derivation (after they conquered England) that used “man” as “male human.” So I’m not sure how “woman” factors into that, which is probably the reason for feminists’ desire/need for another word.

    Nevertheless, the words “womyn” and “womon” (the singular word) are definitely meant to separate from the original terms, which are clearly tied to men.

  • Jade

    I think that your first statement is 100% right. You may also be right about how they view trans women, but it’s VERY clear that they don’t believe that trans women grew up as women, no matter what they believed themselves to be.

  • Jade

    And that’s why I wish they’d stop responding to the critics. They don’t have to “win” the argument. The arguments don’t matter. They don’t need to make sense to anyone but themselves. It’s their land. Their party. *They’re not actually hurting anybody.* When they’re called bigots, they should simply shrug their shoulders and continue with the party.

  • MJ

    Yes, that WAS funny. But, getting serious, I actually don’t think the term “womyn” should be mocked as much as it is. Yes, most feminists would just overlook the term “woman” as no big deal, but I can actually understand the reasoning of why extremist feminists would choose a new word. Doesn’t the term woman (correct me if I’m wrong) originally mean something like “not a man” ..(as if only men are significant and women are….those OTHER things)?

  • MJ

    My guess is that the Michigan Music Fest gals are all for trangsgender rights and equality in general, but in the long run they don’t fully believe M-to-F transfolks are real women.

  • crash2parties

    Thank you. My point is that all of their arguments fall apart when faced with the number of exceptions they’d have to accommodate. In other words, they are chock full of fallacies. Which leaves only bigotry, ugly a word as it may be.

    I have my own guess. TERF’s may very well be the equivalent to Log Cabin Republicans in their own way. That is they very much have conservative tendancies, but are forced to fit into a liberal structure because people of a like mind are bigoted against them. Just a thought…

  • bettymthompson

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  • Jade

    “Well, what about my daughter? She has identified as a girl since she was 3.5 years old.”

    I don’t know. My guess is that if your daughter … hell, I’m not going to guess. I don’t know.

    “Oh, and by the way? There have been plenty of trans men at MichFest
    over the years, and they were typically quite welcome. The revisionism
    is not attractive or honest.”

    I promise you that I never saw out trans men at the festival, and I’ve never heard of them being welcome, or, for that matter, even wanting to attend. But I am sorry to have passed along incorrect information. As I said, I’ve only been to one festival, so I shouldn’t have acted like a know-it-all.

  • Jade

    “One is an employer and the other an organized event.”

    There you have it. One has actual, legal power over other people’s health, and is denying that healthcare to them (something that has actual physical consequences that MEAN something). The other is saying whom they do and don’t want to attend their music festival. That’s the difference (as you, yourself, stated); it’s a very important, obvious difference and that’s why Katrina’s original post to me uses a false equivalency.

    I’ve never denied that the organizers of the festival could be seen as bigoted (or, indeed, are bigoted, though they don’t see it that way). But their barring of trans women from their music festival is in no way comparable to an organization denying healthcare to its employees.

    That’s all I’m saying. I’m not here to fight or argue. But Katrina responded to my post with a statement that is empirically, blatantly false, and that bugged me.

  • crash2parties

    “They may have identified as female from childhood, but they grew up with so-called “male privilege.” They did not experience what it was like to grow up female (no matter what was going on in their minds).”

    Well, what about my daughter? She has identified as a girl since she was 3.5 years old. Prior to that she lived a fairly gender neutral life, as we held a certain disdain for the increasing gender binary extremism of infant-hood by adults. Since then, almost no one outside of our immediate family and her pediatrician have known anything about her history. In other words, she has zero experience with having male privilege and has only known what it is like to grow up female.

    Would she be allowed? Welcome?

    I wish the remnants of the Second Wave would hurry up and quietly fade away & not just because they team up with conservative Christians to oppress trans kids. The new generation of women (excluding TERFS) in my opinion has a much more nuanced and accurate view of what it means to be a girl or woman.

    Oh, and by the way? There have been plenty of trans men at MichFest over the years, and they were typically quite welcome. The revisionism is not attractive or honest.

  • crash2parties

    “In addition to the fact that it’s not a real word, and that its intended scientific derivation is scientifically inaccurate,”

    This statement requires explanation, please.

    If transgender is scientifically accurate and a viable “real” word, than so is its opposite, cisgender. The prefix comes from biology & specifically organic chemistry where cis- and trans- refer to parts of molecules being aligned or opposing. Trans- (sexual, the predecessor to transgender) was originally coined and applied by researchers, not activists. Cis- was borrowed first by regular trans people who semantically needed a
    word that meant the opposite of trans when discussing their lives; only later was it picked up by
    activists. Our family lives at the intersection of both worlds and hear it used far more often as a descriptor simply to mean, “non-trans”, without any derision, than as a derogatory term.

  • Katrina Rose

    “Trans women (and their many, many loud allies) have taken over the festival, in my opinion, because they’ve taken over the conversation.”


    We forced the spring?

  • Katrina Rose

    As I’ve state more than once, there is no difference.

  • chlorogoth

    Then please explain the difference. I see two privately owned entities that are using their sincere moral beliefs to discrimination against a group of people based on their sex and gender. Both believe that what they are doing protects their groups and that is the right thing to do, even though both defy tests of reason or logic outside of their belief systems. One is an employer and the other an organized event, but what is so different about the discrimination involved?

  • chlorogoth

    That’s the thing though. It’s not open to everyone, just woman. Everyone being able to attend isn’t an issue. Transgendered woman not being able to attend is the issue. The festival is stating through their actions, which are much louder than their words and press releases, is that transgendered women are not women. Not only are they not women, but their presence makes a safe place dangerous for non transgendered woman. When was the last time weren’t offended when you heard that gays shouldn’t be allowed in the boy scouts because it is dangerous to the boys?

    Your Folsom Street Fair analogy would be more accurate if they banned transgendered men. Everyone going ruins the party for the woman and the gays. Transgendered woman and men going only ruins the party for the bigots.

    Side note- I’m a gay male, never identified has transgender, but sexism has always sickened me. It is even worse when a group that has experienced discrimination apply the same type of discrimination to another group. It’s like racist minorities, neo-nazis from Jewish families, and homophobic gays. It’s just an extra shade of stupid and hypocrisy thrown into the bigotry that makes it so much more frustrating.

  • Agni Ashwin

    Womyn vegans are “vegyns”. Thank you for your cooperation.

  • Jade

    OK, that’s hilarious!

  • Don Chandler

    Drag Queens that sneak by are by definition, Myn.

  • Jade

    No. No it is not. You’re either being intellectually dishonest, which is bad enough, or you really don’t understand the difference, which is worse.

  • Katrina Rose

    Its an accurate equivalency – because they’re both bigots.

  • hmontaigne

    Because they were born and grew up in a male body, their lived experience is not the same, that is, the external world will not treat them as female, regardless of his/her inner feelings. What others have seen has been male in appearance, and so their treatment of the person has been as a male.

  • Jade

    Oh Good Lord. I’m sorry. I need to find my sense of humor. Perhaps at the bottom of this bottle of wine?

  • MJ

    LOL (I know. I’m just being a smartass).

  • MJ

    Yes, I can imagine there were a lot of fun and positive things about the Fest, in general.

  • Jade

    This is true, but I don’t see what it has to do with this subject. I’m not being purposely obtuse. I get what you’re trying to say, but the two topics have nothing to do with each other.

    Unless you simply want to say that MichFest is bigoted. In which case, you don’t need to use a false equivalency. Just say it. I wouldn’t argue with you.

  • Katrina Rose

    “The Land is privately owned.”

    So is Hobby Lobby.

  • Jade

    I would think not, since Drag Queens, by definition, are men.

  • Jade

    Even though I’m a child of the seventies, I have very little in common with radical, separatist feminists, though I do respect their opinions. I’m more of a “regular-type” feminist. That being said, the women I met at MichFest were fun, exuberant, music-loving, women-loving Amazons. Everyone was in a good mood and there to have a good time. There was no man-bashing that I heard. The only time I saw angry faces or heard angry voices was when trans issues were brought up (which was far too often).

    Trans women (and their many, many loud allies) have taken over the festival, in my opinion, because they’ve taken over the conversation. I’ve only been once because of this. I really wish that the festival organizers would just stop responding to the complaints.

  • MJ

    BTW : Does this mean drag queens aren’t really welcome, either ?

  • MJ

    The Womyns’ Festival attendees sound like a bunch of unpleasant loons to me, but- if what you say is true- I think it’s wrong for transgender activists to try to destroy it. We all have the right to our private parties.

  • Jade

    This reminds me of gay parents who get angry because–surprise!–the Catholic school is expelling their kid. Why would they want to be there anyway?

    The Land is privately owned. The women who organize and run it have stated their reasons why they do not want trangender women there: they were not born women.

    To (maybe) answer your question, John. It doesn’t matter if trans women were born *identifying* as female. They may have identified as female from childhood, but they grew up with so-called “male privilege.” They did not experience what it was like to grow up female (no matter what was going on in their minds).

    Trans men are not welcome either because–if they’ve transitioned–they are *no longer women.* Thus, they presently do not experience what it’s like to live as female day-to-day.

    Womyn-born-womyn: Attendees must have always, and presently, lived as women, now and forever, Amen.

    I attended MichFest, and though I did have a good time, this trans issue was all over the place. The message boards were trolled by them; there was a group of protestors outside of the Land; attendees walked around wearing “Trans Womyn Belong Here” t-shirts. Others wore “No they don’t” shirts. One woman working the concession stand wore a shirt saying, “I love my trans girlfriend.” The conversations were everywhere: on the trains, in workshops, during our work shifts, even at the concerts. It really strained the otherwise good mood of the place. And this was YEARS ago.

    The festival has already been negatively impacted, and this issue is not going to go away. I honestly don’t think that trans women want to attend the festival (I don’t know any trans women who really enjoying hot, sweaty camping). They want to take it down. And they’ll succeed. Because once the festival starts allowing them to attend (and it eventually will, if only to shut everyone up), the entire REASON for the festival will be moot and it’ll go bankrupt.

  • Sean Knight

    I was not surprised about a trans man winning IML – I was trying to point out that while many people might think it to be an unwelcoming space for trans men, the opposite is true. So I agree with you entirely. I was trying to show what acceptance should look like.

    As for the Latin pronunciation, perhaps since I studied Latin at university I tend to be a stickler for the hard “c” – as in “Caesar” (pronounced correctly “Kaizar”, hence the Russian “Czar”, German “Kaiser” and so on). The soft “c” is a result of Latin words reaching us via French, thus through a Gaelic filter which softens the sounds.

    But I agree many men object to the “cisgender” appellation – and watch out now for the rise of another word: “homonationalism” – critical of the majority “whiteness” of the gay community in which Asians and other non-European people are marginalised along with trans people, effeminate men, etc. It is bound to also be found objectionable to people thus labelled.

  • ComradeRutherford

    I refuse to join any club that would exclude me because I once had a ‘member’…

  • Mich Fest

    August 1, 2014 Statement from Michigan Womyn’s Music Festival

    Over the past week, a number of LGBTQ organizations (including Equality Michigan and the Human Rights Campaign) have asserted that the Michigan Womyn’s Music Festival (“MWMF”) believes transgender womyn are “less than” other womyn, and that the Festival’s intention is the equivalent of the U.S. military’s “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” policy. We once again passionately reject these allegations and write to speak our truths.

    Equality Michigan has initiated a petition and call to action against the Festival based on misrepresentations, purposeful omissions, and selective editing of prior Festival statements on this issue. In doing so, they are choosing to sidestep the decades long true reason for the Festival’s existence – to create an alternative to the debilitating misogynist culture we are all steeped in. We call upon followers of this petition and bloggers reposting Equality Michigan’s statements to stop circulating this misinformation and to include our truth. To this end, the Festival offers these simple facts:

    · We believe all humans suffer under patriarchy;
    · We believe that transgender womyn are womyn;
    · We believe thafemales experience a unique, historical, and debilitating oppression as a clasunder patriarchy;
    · We believe that the subjugation of females is an international phenomenon, experienced across
    time, culture, nation, class, ethnicity, ability and race;
    · MWMF has, since its inception in 1976, formed itself as a space for womyn-born-female as a
    means to resist and survive the debilitation of female subjugation;
    · We believe that support for womyn-born-female space is not at odds with standing with and for the transgender community;
    · We believe that the statements calling for the boycott of the MWMF neither speak for all
    transgender womyn nor include all of their voices, many of whom are silenced or
    ignored with regard to their support of the Festival’s intention of womyn-born-female
    space, for example, the New Narratives Conference held in Portland, Oregon this
    Spring. http://newnarratives2014.wordpress.com/

    Our LGBTQ institutions should protect all of our needs for recovery and survival; not cannibalize our mutual needs for liberation. We will not stand by in silence as events are boycotted, lesbian artists are targeted, and community members who attend or support Michigan are bullied into silence and shamed for their love of the Michigan community.

    We are not afraid of our differences and disagreements. And we will not back down from our right to define autonomous space for ourselves. The greater liberation of all womyn, which clearly includes trans womyn, is to find where our struggles intersect, and to work towards common goals while respecting and honoring the specificity of our differences. We strive to create a world where
    we live in solidarity as womyn, sisters in struggle, standing shoulder to shoulder. If our way of working through our differences as a broader LGBTQ community is to recklessly dismantle lesbian feminist institutions, we will all be standing on the bones of our mothers.

  • irmaagregg

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  • Bj Lincoln

    I’m not a fan of the word “cisgender” myself. For a generation of young people who claim to hate labels, there are more now than ever and “cisgender” is the worst one.
    My transgender friend still has all his “lady parts” but I bet they would turn him away at the door. What about the young lady who has been raised as such from age 3 or 4 when it was discovered he was a she and had parents who were ok? If she was raised a girl then she would have that insight required.
    I don’t spell women with a y for any reason. I am born and raised female but I can’t claim to understand women any more than men can. Too many rules to be inclusive for me.

  • MJ

    Though some would argue that the IML event and contest is a silly beauty pageant anyway, so…..it’s not like the stanadards are too high.

  • Mike_in_the_Tundra

    You may have always pronounced cis- with a hard c sound, but I know of no one else who does that. I checked several online dictionaries, and they all give cis- the soft c pronunciation. I do feel that every group or person has the right to decide what they want to be called. Many men object to cis-.

    You seem to be surprised about the trans man winning the International Mr. Leather contest. The leather community is a very accepting and welcoming community.

  • Sean Knight

    I was amused that you think “cisgendered” is reminiscent of “sissy”, as I always pronounced it with a hard “c”, which is correct for Latin terms, so that association had never occurred to me. So to me it’s more like “kissy” than “sissy”.

    On a more serious note, in 2010 a trans man won the International Mr Leather contest. In a wheelchair, no less. So it is possible for our community to be inclusive in areas where one might otherwise expect exclusion (such as a leather man competition). It’s a pity the womyn of Michigan are unable to be flexible about this issue. Transphobia is an ongoing problem in our community that is one of the real issues to be addressed right now. It also contributes to higher rates of HIV infection among trans* people than other groups, as targeted education on HIV tends to miss them and they “fall through the gaps” in the safety net.

  • MJ

    I don’t know enough about them, so I’m not going to guess.

  • Tatts

    The MWMF is a very different event than some gay club or pride event. It is much more personal than a pride event. Go to their website and see. They don’t even list the location of it.

    This is not a come-one-come-all kind of event. It’s private. There is a huge difference, and people should be able to select who will and will not be allowed to attend a private event. As dcinsider put it well, this is not about public accommodations or job protections; this is a private event. If you let everyone in, then there’s no more Michigan Womyn’s Music Festival; it stops being what it is (which is clearly more than a music festival.

    It’s like the Folsom Street Fair; when the straight people with strollers come in the afternoon to gawk at the leather guys, the whole thing changes for the worse.

  • Do you suppose they would demand proof if they suspected, or just kick her out?

  • MJ

    If a transwoman just showed up, though, and didn’t publicly identify as trans, aren’t the womyn…..not supposed to know ?

  • Indigo

    Good point. Thank you.

  • Indigo

    Yes, that, and also “femi-nazi.”

  • Indigo

    I’m comfortable with that. Martin Luther reinvented Christianism and it took well enough to become a North European Establishment religion. L.Ron wrote enough science fiction to establish a scripture that’s too new today to have the patina of age to sanctify it but it’ll get there. The teachings of the Buddha are so ancient that authentic scriptural traditions are lost, disguised as sacred but nevertheless, lost, and that’s okay because the insight remains entirely valid and, better yet, workable. Spiritual commitments do not flourish in the spotlight of academic investigation or historicism, they work best in the discreet obscurity of paradox and mystic insight. That’s fine. As long as they don’t try to shanghai secular law into legislating their idiosyncrasies into law the way the Christianists do with their odd teachings about sexual behavior.

  • emjayay

    A friend of mine who is lesbian was uninvited from a women’s dance in San Francisco because her long-time once-lesbian partner had transitioned and become a straight man.

  • FLL

    I agree that we don’t need reconstructed archaisms to make nature the center of spirituality. So the best recourse seems to be to leave the people of ancient and prehistoric times alone rather than pressing them into service for a particular theory of gender or a particular form of modern worship. I think it’s ill-advised for Goddess worshipers to validate and support their religion by fabricating a mythical time in prehistory when people worshiped an all-powerful Goddess and, as a consequence, accorded the female population more respect and political power than the male population.

    What’s wrong with women’s rights being a modern development? If it’s a modern development, it means that people are judged by their accomplishments, or as Martin Luther King put it, “the contents of their character.” You would have to abandon the idea that a fabricated matriarchal period existed in prehistory. You would also have to abandon the notion that a woman gains respect and power simply by virtue of her female biology rather than accomplishments or character.

  • Phippen

    As the father of a transgender child, I’m pretty far from the
    center of the trans world but your perception of the term cisgender is very
    different from mine. In my experience, it’s just shorthand for “not transgender”
    the same way straight is shorthand for “not gay”. The trans people and families
    of trans people I know do not mean it to be offensive.

  • They have community groups within the festival for Jewish women, deaf women, women of color, younger women, older women, etc… there’s no reason at all why they couldn’t also include transgender women, and use it as an opportunity to educate about their unique journey to being accepted as women. Instead, they choose to perpetuate the ignorance that trans women are just men in makeup and dresses, and thus are automatically a threat to women. Of course the shower case in the post below was egregious, and tantamount to assault, but that, and any incident like it, should be dealt with as an isolated case and not foisted on every single trans woman for the rest of eternity. Just like they could with any other case of abuse or assault occurring. I’m pretty sure that the community could handle it. They just don’t want to.

  • Indigo

    As if they had occult anthropological insight? That’s another dimension entirely as far as I’m concerned. But in patheisitic nature worship, after all, nature is right here. We don’t need artificially reconstructed archaisms, just a timeless or mystic connection to what’s right here in front of us. That approach probably doesn’t sell books, though. :-)

  • FTM protesters? Really? Are you sure you don’t mean MTF protesters?
    ‘Cause if I tried to attend their festival (which I would never in a million yrs do because I am NOT a woman or a womyn), they’d show me the door before I could ever show them my privates, which are not standard issue male.
    Lesbian women have for years rightfully protested that they don’t exist and gay men suck all the air outta the room. Just as invisible are the FTMs, and a lot of gay men don’t like us either.
    Of course, happily, many do. :-)

  • dcinsider

    I really don’t have a problem with this. Not everyone has to change everything they do to accommodate transsexuals. This may be a bit shortsighted on the festival’s part, but for godsakes let’s let them have their damn festival and not make every single thing that any group of progressives do a line in the sand for transsexuals. I, for one, am tired of hearing the incessant transsexual whining. Stary your own festival and make it inclusive. There, mission accomplished.

    As a gay man I don’t expect to be welcomed into every gathering of humankind. I don’t want to attend a Evangelical revival. I don;t care to go to a KKK meeting either. Let’s face it, there are gatherings in which some of us will never be welcome. Who cares? Why on earth would you want to join a festival that so clearly indicates you are not welcome?

    This is NOT about serious issues like public accommodations or job protections. This is about that group of girls in high school who never invited you to the sleepover. It is NOT a real issue, and it is NOT worthy of serious discussion.

  • FLL

    That’s a good way to look at spiritual connection—timeless. There are plenty of folks who try to understand and practice the spirituality of ancient peoples, such as the Celts, and I’m sure they would be fine if Goddess worshipers simply consider their experiences as timeless. It’s only when modern people insist that their beliefs were shared by people of a specific past era (e.g., ancient Celts or prehistoric people) that anyone will complain—either academics or modern people who reconstruct the spiritual practice of ancient times.

  • FLL

    I’m not trying to define or box your religion. I’m only asking that you regard prehistory as exactly that—before any recorded history. That leaves both you and I to interpret prehistoric art in whichever way we think is right. But when you interpret prehistoric art, can we both admit that we are guessing? We have no idea how prehistoric people worshiped, so I won’t pretend that I know. When people look at prehistoric art (or doodles), different individuals see different things. One might judge the design as the representation of female genitalia, another might see the representation of a penis. I simply ask that you not insist on sweeping judgments about what prehistoric people worshiped or which gender they valued more. As I said before, those are my prehistoric ancestors too, not just yours. Is that fair?

    Regarding ancient times (complete with written history), we have a very good idea of how the people of the ancient Mediterranean region worshiped. There were Gods and there were Goddesses, with a plethora of complex relations between them. Until the 19th century, there had never been any equivalent of either the somewhat monotheistic Goddess worship of today or the gender-polar (Goddess-Cernunnos) worship of today. Actually, people who are sincerely attracted to the rebirth of ancient Celtic religion often complain that some modern people project characteristics onto the Celtic god, Cernunnos, that there is no evidence for whatever. There is no indication from any source that ancient Celtic people regarded Cernunnos as having a mate, let alone an all-inclusive Great Goddess. If we agree that this spiritual belief is one that was born in modern times, fine. But claiming that this was what ancient Celtic people believed is fabrication. I’m just trying to give reconstructionists the respect they deserve.

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  • Indigo

    To chain spiritual insight to academic practice is to invalidate both. When (maybe if) a person connects with the depths of spirituality, academic issues about who worshiped whom when are irrelevant to the connection to whatever spirit or archetype is invoked. It is an inherently timeless event, even though we abide in time. Such moments are portals into that timeless realm that academe cannot measure.

  • MJ

    I’m not so sure about that. I know guys who, I swear, would walk around in public wearing a crown and expect to be called “your majesty”.

  • Palto

    If a womun (sorry thought the Y was pretentious) has a medical emergency at this festival I wonder if the lesbian organizers would choose to waste time explaining to the 911 operator how only female since birth EMT / paramedics are allowed on the grounds. Yeah thought not.

  • goulo

    Boo to the random off-topic slam against vegans, as if all “womyn” are vegans, or as if vegans can not be perfectly friendly mellow people.

  • The_Fixer

    I understand and encourage the Michigan Womyn’s Music Festival to do as it pleases and understand their desire to do so.


    It also seems like they could be limiting themselves. As others have pointed out, trans women were born women in one way. Would it not be educational for the festival goers to interact with their trans sisters? Perhaps it would advance some of their goals to have another group invested in those same goals.

    In the end, they can do as they wish – at their own peril?

  • I am so very sorry you feel that way FLL. Your comment was so quick and the hammer you used so cold that I must wonder why you need to define and box our religion and beliefs in such a way. Oh I’ve heard this dismissive crap many many times before. My comment was based very much on the Michigan Womyn’s Music Festival website itself. They claim quite openly that they are inclusive and yet when it comes to the feminine inside of trans folk they release comments such as the one above. They have a workshops called ‘Talking Gender and Sexuality Across Generations.’ Really? ‘Challenging Internalized Misogyny.’ Seriously?
    I have no problem with anything that promotes women and the feminine. We have allowed the feminine to be so debased and abused over the centuries that it is almost genetic. So let them gather. Let them sing and shout and bang the drum. My heart and beliefs concerning the feminine is not only based on ancient principals but is bone deep.
    However, this does not mean that I do not have the right to call foul when I see it. Reaching for higher ground my Sisters? I would be honored to hold the rope. But both hands must be used . One cannot hold onto a bag of poison or place stumbling stones onto the path and expect to make it.


  • Tatts

    The silly “womyn” spelling and the trigger use of “cisgender” aside, one has to ask:

    Do we not all have the right to establish groups of our own choosing and define them as we wish?

    Should leather bars be places where guys can go and express their S/M side with other like men without bachelorette parties waltzing through (seen it more than once, hate it every time)? Should there not be gay bars? Should there not be women’s bars? Male bathhouses?

    Must we allow everyone in every place, thereby making no place special any more? Must we water everything down? I don’t think so.

    I don’t think I’d want anything to do with any of the “womyn”–they sound like a real bunch of pissy vegan buzzkills to me (and always have). But they have the right to self-define their group and their event. I think we need to be able to create special places and events of our own choosing. People who don’t fit in such a group are perfectly free to start their own event and make it their own and make it a success.

  • FLL

    Your description of spiritual belief among Goddess worshipers is all well and good… assuming that they consider their spirituality to be a belief system of modern times. It would be academic dishonesty for those in your circle to project their more or less monotheistic Goddess worship onto the people of ancient or prehistoric times. To put it another way, those are my ancestors too.

  • Silver_Witch

    Oh pericles9 – I so what to up vote this…can’t you take off the “femi-nazis” thing…I hate that term.

  • Silver_Witch

    I think you said it perfectly They were after all “born female”. Simply because one has a dick swinging between their legs DOES NOT mean they were “born male”. We as humans must learn that we are born in our hearts and our minds and are not defined by our sexual parts, the color of our skin, the religion we practice or mental or physical disease we might suffer from.

    It is what WE think we are, what we KNOW we are, what beats deep in our heart, our soul. Me…I am me, male in the mind, female in the parts, Sentient Being in the soul.

  • You know , many in my circle consider Women to be the mortal representation of the Goddess herself. Goddess manifests in many forms and genitalia has little to do with it. It is a spirit and an attitude. If a person is more Hecate than Cernunnos who is anyone to condemn or slight them because of external plumbing. And yet you are right my Sister , it is their festival. But I see poison infecting what could have been marvelous fruit.

  • caphillprof

    As if the matriarchal world is any better.

  • Matt Rogers

    That’s my understanding also, that transgender women were born with a female gender identity. Therefore, they were born female.

  • FLL

    Even though I’m a man, I don’t feel slighted by women maintaining women-only spaces, although excluding trans women seems unnecessary and counterproductive. The Michigan Womyn’s Music Festival is their space to control however they want, but English is not their language to control however they want. English is our common tongue, so I don’t like people inventing new spellings (like “womyn”) or new words to further their argument. I think you should be able to make a strong argument just by presenting your ideas, not by unsuccessfully trying to change the English language.

  • Ryan P

    Yeah the whole “cis” thing has to go.

  • DRoseDARs

    Imma havy to disagryy with you, John, like othyrs havy about womyn spylling the word with a y. It makys thym look liky prytyncious idiots at byst. I would FULLY yxpyct thym to by intolyrant of thy transgyndyryd.

  • perljammer

    The statement from the festival sounds eerily like something from a Portlandia “Women and Women First” sketch.

  • pericles9

    This is crazy. You are who/ how you identify yourself, regardless of one’s own extremities. Hardly would I agree with Rush Limbo, but aren’t they pushing “femi-nazis” too far?

  • jm2

    i gave a problem with one statement in their argument: “Being born female in this culture has meaning, it is an authentic experience, one that has actual lived consequences.” i gave always understood from things i have read and from transgender friends that they were born in the wrong body. they were born female in a male body or vice versa. doesn’t this mean they were born as women? i understand they were probably not ‘raised’ female, but it negates the ‘birth’ argument. or is there another way to look at it?

  • In other words: You’re not banned, but you’re not welcome.

  • nicho

    Why should we take anyone seriously who still spells “women” as “womyn?” That is so 1970s. Those people need to get a freaking grip. They are making parodies of themselves.

  • This particular controversy has been going on for years and years now… This strange impulse towards rigid boundaries and exclusion, as well as an awful lot of misandry and transphobia, are why neither my wife nor I want to have anything to do with the radical separatist movement.

    Also, seeing women spelled with a ‘y’ rankles in ways I can’t begin to describe.

    But hey, it’s their festival, they can do whatever the hell they want.

  • Tanner Boyle

    MWMF has group showers. Maybe 15 years ago, some protesting FTM individuals entered the fest and thought it would be really funny to jump naked into the showers with some unsuspecting women and expose themselves.

    One of the showering women happened to be an older butch dyke who had been around during the bar raids of the 60’s- and who had been the victim of sexual assaults by cops. This woman turned to my partner, who was working security at the fest that year and said: ‘How could you? How could you let this happen? This is the only place I feel safe in the world.’

    And that is why the Festival prefers that FTM protesters stay away. Respectful persons are welcome.

  • AndyinChicago

    I have a friend who used to be involved in the planning; apparently, the grounds’ owners are some radical feminists who don’t believe that a trans woman has earned the rights to attend the festival; the festival either has to move and find an equally suitable place or to put up with the transphobia. So far, they’ve sided with the transphobia.

  • Indigo

    Cisgenders only? That’s a line you’d expect from Pauline La Séparatiste or her brother Philippe. I fully expected the continuum of our (gay) community to realign itself, that’s a naturally historical process of dialectical materialism, but a cisgender hegemony struggle is flat out ridiculous.
    [disclaimer: IMHO, of course!]

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